As regular readers of this blog already know, no two volunteers have the same Peace Corps service. Even near neighbors may find that their diets, villages, work, and housing may be radically different. Before coming to Zambia, I bordered on obsession in trying to figure out the tiny details of what my life would be like. Not surprisingly, no answer I found online was satisfying since they were all so different! Most of all, I wanted to know what my housing would be like.
My first house was spacious – huge, by PC standards – while my neighbor Scott’s hut is more like a roomy shoebox. Today, I am pleased to give you a little tour of my home and a glimpse into my day-to-day world.
The House (inganda):
My hut is approximately 5X7 meters of approximately 1500 clay bricks, cement, and lime with a wood and grass thatched roof (lined with heavy-duty plastic).
After moving in I punched in two large windows in the kitchen, and have a few other smaller windows (for ventilation and light) in the bedroom. The roof doesn’t meet the top of the walls, so there’s a gap that runs across the top allowing for better ventilation and light (and bugs, and dust). For furniture, I have two locally made tables, a stool, a camp chair, my bed, and a couple of reed mats for relaxing in the evenings and keeping things slightly less dirty (and soon a couple of bookshelves for books, clothing, and knick-knacks). Because there’s so much dust and so many insects (termites, ants, etc.), it’s important for me to keep all food in airtight containers or suspended away from climbable objects. I try to keep most things off the floor for cleanliness, but also so they don’t become hiding places for giant spiders, termite nests, or other creepy crawlies.
It’s pretty sparse right now since I don’t spend much awake time in there. I have a small bed-side table, my mosquito net (complete with rain-fly to prevent leaks during rainy season on my sleeping head), and a sleeping bag for cold nights. As I continue to receive packages with maps, cards, photos, and magazines, I’ll decorate the walls in a similar manner to the front room.
The Toilet (Chimbusu):
In my first house, the toilet was made of brick and had a plastered floor. Here, I have a grass that will likely need to be fixed after the rainy season. Grass structures tend to last about eight months to a year between rain, termites, and the blustery hot season.
The Shower (Umusasa):
Like most volunteers, my shower is also made of grass. I usually kneel or squat on a mealie-meal sack for bathing and hang my fresh clothing and towel over the inner-wall. I also have a clothesline in the shower for hanging my unmentionables to dry after laundry. Male volunteers can usually get away with putting boxers and the like on their regular clothesline, but female underwear is far too scandalous for public display.
I also have a small fenced-in garden space that I’m preparing for rainy season, and a raised chicken house that’s currently under construction. I’ll try to remember to take some photos and share them with you in the next house post. In the meantime, consider yourself and all nearly 700(!) fellow blog readers to have an open invitation to come camp out on my compound, attempt a bucket shower, and make your calls to nature via the hole-in-the-ground hotline.